Him Mark Lai: Autobiography of a Chinese American Historian (2011)

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Author: Him Mark Lai

Editors: Judy Yung with Ruthanne Lum McCunn and Russell C. Leong

Paperback: $18.95

ISBN-10: 0934052492

ISBN-13: 978-0-934052-49-8

Product Details: 180 pgs, 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 in, with photographs

Categories: Asian American; Asian American Movement; Autobiography/Biography/Memoir; Bibliography; China; Chinese; Global/Transnational Connections; History; Immigration and Migration; Primary Sources; Transcultural; Translation

Co-published with the Chinese Historical Society of America



"The Chinese in America are a major Asian group with a long history in this country. Their experiences have played an important role in the development of America. At the same time, academicians need to look at the larger picture and study Chinese Americans as part of U.S. history, Chinese history, and world history." - Him Mark Lai

In his own words, Him Mark Lai (1925-2009), the renowned Dean of Chinese American History, shares with us the moving story of his own life, beginning with his childhood in San Francisco Chinatown to his career as an engineer to historian and scholar. Through chronicling the saga of his own family, he also provides an intimate portrait of a Chinese American immigrant family and community developments from the Great Depression of the 1930s through the McCarthy era of the 1950s, through the Asian American Studies Movement of the 1970s, to the present. 

Him Mark Lai's voice, at once measured and compelling, sheds light on broader U.S.-China relations, the changing economic status of Chinese Americans, and the ways in which domestic and international politics have shaped their lives and thrust Chinese Americans onto the larger world stage. 

In the book, Lai states: "Because the Chinese American community has had a predominately immigrant population during practically all of its history, most documentation was necessarily in Chinese; hence, Chinese-language materials are essential for in-depth investigations of many facets of the Chinese American historical experience, especially those connected with the community's internal dynamics." Lai's rescue, collecting, cataloguing, preservation and sharing of historical sources in both Chinese and English opened the field of Chinese American history to scholars and researchers on both sides of the Pacific. Today, historians and writers continue to rely and to draw upon Him Mark Lai's insights and scholarship. Him Mark Lai: Autobiography of a Chinese American Historian contains illustrated chapters on the Maak immigrant lineage, sojourn in Singapore, marriage and family, taking root in America, the public Chinese and American schools, Mun Ching and politics, marriage, the development of Chinese American consciousness, researching Chinese American history, and transpacific linkages, together with appendices, family and archival photographs, maps, and a comprehensive bibliography and online resources on the work of Him Mark Lai.


Table of Contents


Foreword John Kuo Wei Tchen
Preface Judy Yung, Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Russell C. Leong


Part One: Origins

  • The Maak Lineage
  • Father’s Childhood
  • Short Sojourn in Singapore
  • Maak Becomes Lai
  • Return to China and Marriage
  • Taking Root in America
  • Additions to the Family


Part Two: Childhood

  • Home at 1030 Grant Avenue
  • The Neighborhood
  • The Great Depression
  • Chinese School
  • Public School


Part Three: Adulthood

  • College Days
  • A Career in Engineering
  • Progressive Friends
  • Mun Ching and Marriage


Part Four: Historian

  • Chinese American Consciousness
  • Teaching Chinese American History
  • Researching Chinese American History
  • Trans-Pacific Links
  • Full-time Historian
  • A Traveling Scholar


Epilogue: History Yet To Be Written
Appendix 1: Origins of the Clan Name Maak
Appendix 2: Geographical Origins of Our Ancestral Village, Dashi Mai
Appendix 3: The Other Branch of the Maak Family in China
Bibliography of Published Writings
Online Resources
Awards and Honors


Related Center Press Publications:

Amerasia Journal 26:1 Histories and Historians in the Making (2000).
Lai, Him Mark (1986). A History Reclaimed: An Annotated Bibliography of Chinese Language Materials on the Chinese of America.